Beliefnet
Dream Gates

We are all after the holy grail of happiness in life, and sometimes it can seem elusive. However, research shows it is possible to be happier, and here are five ways for you to achieve it.

  1. Practice smiling

We’ll start with the easiest one first. Smiling can help to improve your mood, even when you don’t feel like smiling. Psychologists call this the facial feedback hypothesis. According to this hypothesis, contractions of the facial muscles not only communicate what a person feels to others but also to the person him or herself.

Other studies have found that smiling can make us feel better, but it is more effective when we back it up with positive thoughts. 

Workers who smile as a result of cultivating positive thoughts tend to improve their mood and withdraw less, according to a study by Michigan State University business scholar. Of course, a fake smile that doesn’t even reach your eyes is not likely to have any effect on your happiness.

  1. Help others

It may seem counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to feel happier in life is to help others. It appears that one or two hours a week is the optimal time you should dedicate to helping others if you want to enrich your life.

You can do something very simple to help others like purchasing artisan handmade jewelry for a good cause. The way you shop provides a simple way to make a difference. For example, some companies will donate one product to the needy for every product you purchase.

A study published in the journal Nature found that when people had the option of spending money on themselves or someone else, those who spent it on someone else experience more brain activity in the regions involved with subjective happiness. 

Activity in these regions seemed to override the activity in regions linked with personal reward. Many people volunteer because they find it rewarding and are happier when they do it than when they don’t. Various studies have found that being kind to others increases well-being.

  1. Exercise more

Exercise has a profound effect on happiness. It creates a sense of well-being and is an effective way to overcome depression. Shawn Achor cites a study in his book, The Happiness Advantage, where three groups of patients treated depression with exercise, medication, or a combination of the two. 

The depression of patients in all three groups experienced improvements in their happiness levels early on, but six months later, the exercise group had the lowest relapse rate. Exercise helps you to relax, increase your brain power, improve your body image, and feel happier.

  1. Get enough sleep

Sleep helps your body to recover and repair the damage but research also shows that it is important for happiness. In one experiment, sleep-deprived college students remembered over 80% of words with a negative connotation, but only 31% of those with a positive or neutral connotation.

This could be because of the way the brain processes positive and negative memories. Sleep deprivation hits the hippocampus, which processes positive and neutral memories, making it more difficult to remember them.

  1. Spend more time with friends and family

Social time is extremely important when it comes to improving happiness, even for introverts. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Socio-Economics focused on the value of relationships compared to money and found actual changes in income buy very little happiness.

It seems that even if your income increases by thousands of dollars, this is worthless to your happiness than strengthening your social relationships.